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Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

THE Lord lives. He is Sion's steady friend. Whoever may be against the Church, he is always on her side. If matters prosper, it is owing to his kindness and care. Even when provoked, he is loath to depart. In times of the greatest declension, his affectionate language is, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together." When provoked to inflict judgment he does it with reluctance. He ardently desires a revival. He uses every mean to produce it. He warns his people of their danger, directs them to the path of duty, and promises the blessing. He wants to be importuned that it may be actually bestowed. He promises that nothing shall obstruct Divine communication, or prevent the bless

ing. Rather than it should be withheld, he promises to open the windows of heaven and pour it out.

Having discussed the previous parts of this text, we now come to that important branch, where God promises to pour out the blessing. While the Lord's blessing is always infinitely excellent in itself, it may convey different ideas, and contains articles in some respects distinct, as it is promised to, or bestowed upon, an individual, or a Church and people. In the words before us, it evidently respected the Church as a collective body, but included something to every individual saint.

IV. We go on to speak of God's promising to pour out the blessing. In considering this important part of the subject, we shall endeavour to explain the blessing, the metaphor of pouring it out, and God's opening the windows of heaven that it may be communicated till there be not room to receive.

Concerning the blessing here promised we shall make the following observations.

1. It includes a removing the curse with its causes and effects. The Lord had cursed them with a curse, even that whole nation. There was, no doubt, at that time a good number of real saints among the Jews; but the greater part were sinners. Corruption and declension were almost universal, and the Lord was angry with them as a collective body. He called them to bring the tithes into his house, and promised to bless them-that is, he would remove the curse,

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The curse of God in Scripture most frequently denotes the great sentence of condemnation, under which all the children of Adam equally are, as they come into this world; but sometimes it means a particular judgment inflicted on account of some great transgression. In this last sense, sometimes whole nations, and at other times individual offenders, fall under the curse. The greatest part of the Jewish Church were still in their natural state, and so under the curse in the first sense; and the most, if not the whole, were under it in the second. On account of withholding the tithes, they were under present tokens of the Lord's anger. Strictly speaking, real saints cannot be under the curse; but they may have a deep hand in the transgression, and provoke the Lord with their inventions; they may be instrumental in drawing down judgments, and be sharers along with others in the common calamity. When God promised the blessing, it meant that he would wholly remove the curse in the last sense, and, as to many of them, the great sentence of condemnation. When the blessing should be conferred, many would be converted, and all of them delivered from the present heavy judgment.

He would also remove the causes of the immediate stroke inflicted on them. These were the sins mentioned in this chapter. He would remove these in respect of guilt, by laying them on the great scapegoat, and bringing many of those who were guilty to consent to this deed, and improve the remedy. He would also put a stop to the prevalence of the sins complained of. The revival of religion would issue

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in their repenting of, and turning from, their iniquities. These would be removed as grounds of controversy, as separating between them and their God, and as obstacles in the way of the blessing. This affords us a true criterion by which we may judge when God may be said to bless this or any other sinful land: the causes of his contending will be in a great measure removed, and sins formerly prevalent will be given up, both in affection and practice. This, like every other part of the blessing, comes from God. He alone, by his grace without us, can remove the guilt of sin, and by his grace within us the power. The effects of the curse would also be removed. These were various, both on God's part, and their own. God was angry, and hid his face. He contended, and wrote bitter things against them. He threatened judgments, and partly inflicted them. In a great measure he acted as their enemy. All these he would remove by turning away his anger. On their part were sin and suffering. They smarted for their conduct; but they were obstinate, and refused to be reclaimed. They had inward murmurings, and outward wickedness. They withheld the tithes, and robbed God. All these things would be removed by the Divine blessing. Their famine and want should be no more. Their ills of doing and suffering would cease; and Haggai's words would be verified to them, "From this day will I bless you."

3. It concludes the favour of God, and the fruits of it. When God blesses a person or people, they may sing as in Isai. xii. 1, “ Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst


me." The favour of God sometimes signifies his great purpose of grace in himself, which is the source of every spiritual blessing: at other times it is taken for present favourable dealing-when, instead of anger or threatening, he speaks peace to his people, and lifts up the light of his countenance. In this last sense it is to be understood here. Well can believers distinguish between God's fatherly anger; and the intimations of his love. The fruits of his favour are many and great, and will be partly explained afterward. At present we shall only say that his promises are accomplished to his people, and his perfections exerted in their behalf. In consequence of this they enjoy sweet communion. If an angry God makes sinners quake, and saints tremble, (see Psal. exix. 120,) a God reconciled, and intimating that he is pacified, will fill the heart with gladness, and the mouth with praise. When the fruits of Divine favour are enjoyed, matters go well in Judah, and in the heart of every saint.

3. The acceptation of their services was another part of the blessing. When God called them to bring the tithes, and promised that he would bless them, he intimated that he would graciously accept their offerings. In justification, the persons and all the services of the saints are accepted. This acceptance is in the Beloved, and for his sake. This blessing is unalterable, unceasing, and incapable of increase or diminution. It commences in the same moment with spiritual life, and runs parallel with it as to duration. Prosperity and adversity, life or death, proper or improper conduct, never vary this

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